David Shteinman – engineer and dual Australian-Israeli citizen – felt compelled to get to Israel as soon as possible after the October 7 terrorist attack. He went there to volunteer for two things. First up was joining Sar-El, the national project for volunteers for Israel, which allows volunteers worldwide to assist directly on IDF bases, engaging in non-combat tasks to free up soldiers for essential military duties.
“I want to make it clear you are not working in the military, nor carrying a gun. You are not fighting but just doing logistics support,” Shteinman said.
Second, without specific plans to see where he could be useful, he ended up at Kibbutz Be’eri. “I was a little surprised that the kibbutz would welcome strangers to come and help,” he said. “But they had lost their Thai workers and the Arabs from the West Bank, and all their fruit crops needed harvesting and they were very welcoming.”
He was the only Australian volunteer at the time working with other volunteers picking avocados, oranges and tangerines. Even though the kibbutz is only four kilometres from the Gaza border and very close to Israeli artillery he said there was a good atmosphere. “It was a bit of a surprise at first, but I got used to it; I wasn’t scared because this was Israel.” Shteinman described the kibbutzniks as very resilient even after a very traumatic time.
One of the things that stuck with him was around the middle of the day, the volunteers would sometimes get a lecture, more like talk, from some of the survivors. Someone would translate their extremely disturbing stories. They described in detail how they hid in their houses, how the terrorists tried to get in and that 10 kibbutzniks were taken hostage.
The agricultural manager told how he did his very best to protect his family inside the sealed room, but unfortunately, his wife and son were killed. His daughter survived and so did he, but he lost one leg. “There he was giving a talk two months after it happened to volunteers about his experience.
“We were also given a tour of the destroyed areas of the kibbutz which was very disturbing.” Shteinman was amazed that while everyone at Be’eri had suffered during the Hamas attack they were taking care of foreign volunteers. “Everyone said to me they were happy that I was there because now we know we are not alone; that was not just a cliché.”
He ended his conversation with The AJN with a plea, “Get over there and volunteer. There is a great spirit, and you will be doing something other than listening to bad news or looking at nasty social media.”